Burundian refugees who fled to Rwanda due to security fears began returning to their homeland on Thursday in a voluntary repatriation process.
The first batch, consisting of 500 refugees who spent five years in eastern Rwanda’s Mahama camp, boarded dozens of buses as they began the journey.
“In close collaboration with the government of Burundi and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), we have facilitated their voluntary repatriation from the Mahama camp through Nemba One-Stop Border Post,” Olivier Kayumba, permanent secretary at Rwandan Ministry in charge of Emergency Management, told Xinhua in a telephone interview.
The UNHCR has so far registered 1,800 requests from Burundian refugees at Mahama camp who are willing to be repatriated and the registration of repatriation continues across the country, said Kayumba, adding that Rwanda will continue to facilitate the voluntary repatriation.
A group of Burundian refugees at the Mahama Camp wrote a letter in July to Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye, asking him to cooperate with Rwanda and the UNHCR to repatriate them to Burundi, as they no longer have to flee Burundi.
Mahama, Rwanda’s largest refugee camp with a population of about 43,500, was established to host Burundian refugees after they fled the home country since mid-March 2015 amid security fears and election-related violence.
Since April 2015, 300,000 Burundians fled to neighboring countries, according to the UNHCR .
Burundian government in recent years has been calling for Burundians who fled the country’s 2015 crisis to return, saying the country is at peace, and many of them have voluntarily returned.